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HHS urged to extend timeline for EHR Stage 2 requirements

July 26, 2013

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Seventeen senators Sept. 24 urged the Department of Health and Human Services to extend by one year the time hospitals and eligible professionals have to meet Stage 2 meaningful use requirements before incurring penalties under the Medicare Electronic Health Records (EHR) incentive program.

“If the goal is to improve care by achieving broad and meaningful utilization of EHRs, providing sufficient time to ensure a safe, orderly transition through Stage 2 is critical to having stakeholder buy-in, a necessary component of long-term success,” the senators wrote in a letter spearheaded by Sen. John Thune, R-SD. “Providers who are ready to transition to Stage 2 should do so and should receive incentive payments in 2014 and 2015 consistent with current policy. However, providers that are not yet ready to transition to Stage 2 should have a one-year extension before they must demonstrate Stage 2 meaningful use, consequently mitigating the threat of penalties while still abiding by the statutory deadlines.”

The letter was supported by both the AHA and Ameri­can Medical Association, and underscored the importance of working with stakeholders to ensure widespread adoption of EHRs is achieved.

“We believe that for this program to ultimately be successful, heeding stakeholder feed- back on the current progress to achieving interoperability is imperative,” the senators wrote. For more on the letter, click on: http://tinyurl.com/nbtejyn.

Under the “Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health” or HITECH Act, eligible health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology and use it to achieve specified meaningful use objectives – measureable benchmarks providers must meet to qualify for the incentive payments. Meaningful use has three stages with goals for each stage: ? Stage 1: Data Capture & Sharing - Electronic capture of health information in a structured format, Stage 1 began in 2011. ? Stage 2: Advanced Clinical Processes - Quality improvement at the point of care and electronic exchange of information, Stage 2 scheduled to begin in 2014. ? Stage 3: Improved Outcomes Improvements in quality, safety, and efficiency clinical decision support & patient selfmanagement tools, Stage 3 is scheduled to begin in 2016.

About 17% of eligible hospitals and 10% of eligible professionals (EP) successfully attested to Stage 1 meaningful use of electronic health records under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program in 2011, the first year of the program, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That’s 833 hospitals and 57,808 EPs.